Friday 15 December 2017

Sinise overdoes CSI's NY tribute

csi: ny (rte2) operation transformation (rte1)

THE shadow of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center has hung over many US TV dramas, from 24 to the current Homeland, although only the now defunct Rescue Me, starring Denis Leary as a firefighter haunted by his experiences that day, used 9/11 as a central plank in its storylines. Until now.

The first in the new series of CSI: NY was partially set on the 10th anniversary of the events. The result was a strange and unsatisfying meshing of the fictional life of its lead character, Detective Mac Taylor, and the real life of actor Gary Sinise, who's also one of CSI: NY's producers.

As fans of the series will know, Mac is supposed to have lost his wife, Claire, to 9/11. Sinise, one of the few high-profile Hollywood stars to wear his allegiance to the Republican Party on his sleeve, was awarded the Presidential Citizen Medal by George W Bush for his work supporting the military and his humanitarian efforts on behalf of Iraqi children.

Former presidential candidate John McCain even went as far recently as suggesting that Sinise, with his outspoken views and high celebrity value, could be just the person to offer an eloquent riposte to Barack Obama in this year's presidential election.

The real and the fictional sides of Sinise came together in the final scene, where Mac, surrounded by the rest of the CSI team, as well as real New York cops and rescue workers, delivers the oration at the Brooklyn memorial to the 417 "first responders" who died on 9/11, while Bruce Springsteen's lovely song If I Should Fall Behind played on the soundtrack.

It's well known that Sinise was instrumental in having the memorial completed, donating money and organising fundraising events when financing for the project ran dry, which gave the whole thing a mawkish tone.

Everything else about the episode, which consisted largely of Mac and several other regular characters having clunky flashbacks to what they were doing on 9/11 (in Mac's case, waving goodbye, in slo-mo, to the wife he would never see again) seemed designed solely to bring us to this emotional climax.

It didn't work, either as drama or tribute. You get the feeling that if Sinise were a Democrat and not a Republican, Fox News would have been all over him like a rash.

If you're a reasonably regular reader of this review column you might have noticed I'm not a great fan of television's ongoing habit of force-feeding us anti-obesity programmes served up with a supersized side order of sanctimoniousness and nannyism.

But I'm quite prepared to look away and scoff my Hobnobs in peace as long as they stay in their own part of the canteen and don't go wandering around, greedily snaffling items off the plates of other genres -- such as current affairs, for instance.

Last night's Operation Transformation set its sights on a bigger target than the wobbling waistlines of its overweight diet-hards: fast food outlets that don't display the calorie content of their meals on their menus.

Not, mind you, that they're obliged to do so by law in the way such establishments in the US are. But this didn't prevent presenter Kathryn Thomas, not hitherto noted for her fearless commitment to investigative journalism (unless you count investigating the Marbella nightlife for No Frontiers), approaching Irish-owned fast food chain Supermac's to ask why it doesn't do it anyway.

The company responded with a statement saying it simply doesn't have room on its menu posters for calorie alerts. If it were to put this information in, it claimed, it would mean reducing the size of the type displaying its prices -- which would be breaking EU regulations.

Undeterred, Kathryn had a group of primary school children barely out of pre-school get to work with coloured pencils on redesigning Supermac's posters to include calorie warnings, thereby adding a thick layer of condescension to a series already gagging on self-righteousness.

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